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Older Women and Breast Cancer Screening: Research Synthesis

Suzanne S. Yarbrough
ONF 2004, 31(1), E9-E15 DOI: 10.1188/04.ONF.E9-E15

Purpose/Objectives: To identify the most beneficial ways to support older women as they make screening decisions using a systematic, epidemiologic, narrative review of research regarding benefits and burdens of breast cancer screening and treatment.

Data Sources: Medical and nursing research databases emphasizing women aged 60 and older.

Data Synthesis: Older women can tolerate screening and treatment, yet they are underserved. The most frequently cited reason to explain this phenomenon is declining health status associated with aging. Research evidence does not support this claim. No evidence clearly describes relationships among health status, aging, and less screening or less aggressive treatment.

Conclusions: Older women experience varied health problems. However, indications that they are less able than their younger counterparts to tolerate screening or treatment for breast cancer do not exist.

Implications for Nursing: Further research in all aspects of breast cancer care in older women is required to define and describe risks and benefits of screening within a context of aging and changing health. Nurses should discuss the risks and benefits of screening with older women.

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